George Brookman is CEO of West Canadian Digital Imaging.
Tell me about West Canadian Digital Imaging. What is it and what does it do?
Brookman: It started back in 1952 as a micro filming company. So it’s been around a long time. I bought it from the previous owners in 1984. In fact, this June I’ll be 35 years in this company. We today are probably one of the leading digital document management companies. We can do anything with an image. We produce digital images. We take digital images and make hard copy. We create. We design. We build signs. But the main job is digital document storage.
When and why was the company established?
Brookman: I was working for Ron Southern at ATCO, happily building office buildings, and along came the National Energy Program and a very good friend of mine said, “Well it will be 10 years before you build another office building and I’ve got a little company that’s looking for some energy and some leadership and maybe you’d be interested in that.”
The rest is history, as they say. It took me six months to make the decision to leave ATCO. But here I am 35 years later.
How has business been for you in these tough economic times?
Brookman: We’ve had it 35 years. We’ve had our ups and downs. I can assure you of that. No lie. But I will tell you that the last two and a half years have been the toughest of the 35 years. At one point, we had to lay off 100 people out of a staff of 350. Today, we’re at 355 so we’re back to where we were.
But we changed the approach we do of our business. We decentralized a bit. We’re operating on 21 sites outside of our own buildings now. So things are good but they’re not great. And they’re very fragile.
What has been your biggest challenge being an entrepreneur?
Brookman: The world we live in today, you can do more and more with less and less equipment. The challenge is trying to stay abreast of the modern changes. Trying to stay abreast of the technology. But not getting ahead of your customer. Because we have bought equipment for $300,000, $400,000 and then you got out in this market and people look at you and say “What’s that for?”
It took a long time, for example, to convert business from microfilm to electronic digital images. That was a slow process and all of those changes. Staying with technology, staying current and of course finding good people – all of those things are hard.
What are your plans for the company and its future?
Brookman: We’re just in the middle of our strategic planning. We’re very optimistic about the future. We think we fit nicely into the technology niche. My daughter has joined the company. We owned a business in Toronto. We sold it. And she was running that for 18 years. She’s now moved to Calgary.
She and one of my existing employees are more or less taking over for me. They think it’s going to be 10 months and I think 10 years but that’s up to them.
– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business